The main part of the NBA Free Agency season for 2015 has come & gone & as usual, the NBA always gives us some fireworks during the free agency season. This year, the contracts were completely different. Mid-level guys who have no business making the money that they are are going to get $60 million just because they are just functional enough to look like an NBA player & not your typical 6th grader who can barely play defense or shoot a free throw…..but I digress.
The reason for the big salaries is the new TV deal that the league signed with ESPN & TNT that will kick in next season & will give teams millions of dollars of extra spending money & a higher cap ceiling. This spending didn’t necessarily help out all teams, however.
This piece, however, will break down the most important signings of the NBA free agency period.
The Mavericks were treated like that other woman who you want to kinda date but not really have a relationship with by DeAndre Jordan, who went back to his old love flame, the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers, a team who Jordan reportedly wanted to leave behind in the rear-view mirror because he didn’t like to play & get along with Chris Paul because Paul wants to do something that is obviously frowned upon in sports…….win. Paul held Jordan accountable for being a complete offensive liability & didn’t seem to want to have Jordan back in the middle & Jordan felt that he should see if the grass is really greener on the other side.
But alas………..he went to that other side, to that sexy woman – the Mavericks – who you think might be the one & is looking out for you in all ways & is going to show you how much love you really deserve. But wait……Jordan learned that there is some baggage in that potential relationship. The Mavericks really don’t have a lot of pieces there other than Dirk Nowitzki, who is barely hanging on at this point. Still a good player, but not on the level he was at even in 2013 & definitely not where he was when the Mavs won the NBA Championship in 2011.
Enough railing on DeAndre Jordan though…….I want to look at some of the other free agency deals around the league & break those down.
LeBron James Resigns With Cleveland Cavs
The top player/coach in NBA history – LeBron James – resigned with his hometown franchise (as if he had any type of choice whatsoever) Cleveland Cavaliers on a 2 year deal, which is really a one-year deal & a player option on the second year, where he could become a free agent yet again. LeBron is putting himself in position to be a $50 million a year player when the new TV money comes in next year & at this point in his career, LeBron wants to make sure the Cavs are putting together a winning roster & holding Dan Gilbert to the fire a bit after Gilbert completely disrespected him after James made his initial “decision” in 2010 to go play for the Miami Heat. Gilbert made sure to write that James wouldn’t get a championship before the Cavs did.
Fast forwards………Cavs were in last place after James left & LeBron went to the Finals all 4 years he was in Miami & won the NBA Championship in 2012 & 2013.
Not much to say about this move except that James is pretty much the entire franchise & that anytime the Cavs even think that James may leave, the Cavs organization needs to bend over completely backwards, forwards or any other position he would want them to bend in. James has made that franchise worth well over a billion dollars just with him signing back in Cleveland & when he wasn’t in Cleveland, the franchise was worth have of that.
Kevin Love Resigns With Cleveland Cavs.
The Cavs showed that they were determined to stay in the NBA Championship hunt early on in free agency when they found that Kevin Love was going to resign with the Cavs at the 5 year, $110 million dollar max contract. Love, who was injured much of last season & didn’t find his rhythm in the offense until late in the year, is going to be a key person in the Cavs getting back to the NBA Finals & actually winning the title.
In the NBA Finals, when Kyrie Irving went down with his foot injury, the team didn’t have another true scorer to help LeBron against the on-slaught of three’s & tough inside play from Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes & others. Love will give Cleveland that strong play on the inside & on the perimeter, he is dangerous from three-point range & his passing is the stuff of legends. A healthy Love can end up being major hate from the rest of the NBA in 2015-16.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan & Manu Ginobili All Resign With San Antonio Spurs.
The more that the league changes, the more that the Spurs increase their dominance in the NBA. When we last saw the Spurs, we saw them losing a heartbreaking game 7 to the Los Angeles Clippers on the night of Mayweather vs Pacquiao (May 2). The team looked as though the run was finally completed & possibly the era of the Spurs dominance would take a backseat to a rebuilding period.
Don’t tell that to Gregg Popovich or Spurs General Manager R.C Buford.
The Spurs go out & land the best big man available on the market in former Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge & sign him to a 4-year, $80 million deal. Days before, the team announced that future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan is resigning with the Spurs for his 19th season. Duncan looked like he hadn’t lost a step last season & Popovich used him the perfect way in making sure he was fresh down the stretch & is ready to perform in the playoffs, which he did.
Having Duncan paired up with Aldridge in a twin towers scenario is similar to how David Robinson mentored Tim Duncan & taught him how to win. Duncan will do the same with Aldridge & will have an easier time working with him, especially because Aldridge has proven himself in the league but is coming into his own right now as a true elite player at the forward position in the NBA. Having that veteran leadership & that valuable teaching from Popovich, Duncan, Ginobili & others will only help Aldridge become the cornerstone of the Spurs to go along with Kawhi Leonard, who also received a max contract this offseason.
The Spurs are looking as though they will be the #1 team in the Western Conference this coming season & its not close. Golden State got stronger with bringing back Draymond Green, but no other team in the west truly got much better through adding talent more than the Spurs, who weren’t bad coming into free agency.
The return of Manu Ginobili will be helpful for Leonard & for the bench to be strong again, as Ginobili has become one of the best 6th men in all of the league. With his unorthodox European style of basketball play, Manu is looking to go out in his final NBA seasons in style & with more championships.
Los Angeles Clippers Sign Paul Pierce, Josh Smith & Lance Stephenson & DeAndre Jordan
While the Clippers did beat the Spurs in the first round of the NBA playoffs, the team still didn’t get past the second round, losing a 3-1 series lead to the Houston Rockets. That type of loss in a series shows a lack of leadership & no one to really stop the sinking ship.
(I promise I will not pick on DeAndre Jordan in this piece.)
Head coach Doc Rivers is one of the most respected coaches in the league & has strong superstars around him in Chris Paul & Blake Griffin, but the Clippers needed toughness & a bit of nasty with them. So the team signed Paul Pierce, who played under Rivers in Boston during their NBA Championship run in 2008 & their playoff runs through 2012. Pierce will give that championship leadership on the court & that tough defense & clutch shooting down the stretch in games. He isn’t there to give 20 points a night anymore but in the playoffs & in the 4th quarter, there are few players more dangerous than Pierce, especially now with all of the talent that will be around him to not always show that he is the main option.
In Lance Stephenson, the team gets a tough, rugged defender that isn’t afraid to mix it up & be a tough guy. Stephenson is a bit of a throwback to the 80s in the sense that he is not afraid to get in someone’s face & really make sure that he is shown & known to the offensive player that he won’t get any easy shots for 4 quarters. Stephenson is an instant upgrade on a defense that has been considered very soft for many years now & with Jordan manning the middle & Stephenson on the perimeter & having Paul be an average to above-average defensive player, the Clippers have a strong, solid base to compete in a deep western conference & having those veterans who know how to play in clutch situations will be the Clippers best chance to overtake the NBA Champion Warriors & perennial contenders the Spurs.
In Josh Smith, the Clippers get another shooter to go along with J.J. Redick, which is important in the playoff run. At this point in his career, we all know what Smith is – a 6’10” three-point guy. He will not be a guy who is going to go down low & really try to get to the free throw line often, especially because he is terrible as a free throw shooter. Smith will be good in doses though, especially coming off the bench & with Jamal Crawford, giving the Clippers one of the most explosive bench units in the league.